Tuesday, March 25, 2014

come on feel the salience

Whether or not this nugget from Slade guitarist Dave Hill is actually true or not is besides the point.

The way he thought about it is correct.

In their 70's heyday Slade were on UK TV's 'Top of the Pops' every other week.

Each new release would gain a high week one chart entry due to sales coming from the group's large fan base. In fact, it was not unusual for the group to debut at number one or two.

In the early 70's this phenomenon was much more unusual than it is today.

As radio was the predominant distribution channel for hearing new music, songs could take several weeks to build momentum as they gradually got heard by the broader population.

What Slade understood was that in order to sell beyond the fanbase it was important to stand out and get noticed by the less committed music fans, who bought what was popular. 'Top of the Pops' was that opportunity.

In the early 70'S it was the one half hour in the week, on a Thursday night, when the entire nation tuned in to see what the top songs were.

Slade's Dave became known for his outrageous outfits and huge platform boots.

Indeed, Slade once had to cancel a tour after Dave broke a leg after falling off of his boots, such was the height. While a bit of an inconvenience, this tale merely added to the legend.

Anyway, in an old BBC documentary I stumbled on concerning these 'glam' years Dave recalls how he would road-test particular outfits by wearing them while walking round the local Woolworths in his home town of Walsall (a working class industrial town near Birmingham in the English West Midlands).

The outfits that drew the most extreme response from the local shoppers were the one's he wore on TV.


Getting noticed, standing out and being memorable.

Adding to Slade's set of associated brand elements that them super easy to recognise (and buy) - even for those with very little 'brand' knowledge - alongside Noddy's mirror top hat and shouty voice, the deliberate disfluency of mis-spelled song titles (Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me etc) and boot stomping accompaniment (even the ballads!).

(It's probably no accident that Slade's eventual decline began around 1976 when they returned to the UK following and long US tour having dropped the Black Country Glam boot-boys look for a more studious laid back Californian soft rocker vibe).

While Dave never wrote any of Slade's hits in their superstardom 73/74 era he is reported to have remarked to principal songwriters Noddy and Jim.

'You write 'em, I'll sell 'em'.

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